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Fast Food Increases Obesity in Developing Countries Too

Fast Food Increases Obesity in Developing Countries Too
Written by Publishing Team

While fast food has become almost synonymous with Western society, a YouTube video released in March 2020 based on the work of French journalists sheds light on the fact that poorer developing countries suffer just as much – if not more – from these unhealthy foods. Obesity, diabetes, and the long list of related comorbidities are not uniquely American experiences. Fast food companies in countries like Brazil and India seem to rely on the generalized misinformation that many middle-class families and young children have about the nutritional value of fast foods, sometimes even lying about the ingredients themselves. In a constant effort to make a profit, the wheel of marketing is spinning faster and faster, creating a monster that has become exponentially large, as shown in the above video.

American-style malls in developing countries such as India and Brazil impress locals – it’s even considered a ‘shopping and gastronomy paradise’. Fast food chains like Subway, KFC and Domino’s Pizza rarely open without much coverage, especially Domino’s, which has become so popular in India. It’s not hard to see why it costs, with one medium pizza worth INR59, which turns out to be €0.70, or 79 cents. To make the deal even sweeter, the mini pizzas go for less than 49 rupees each.

These companies do their part to glorify the meals and drinks they offer through typical Western marketing. By contrast, countries in Europe do their best to market healthy foods and lifestyle choices, and even countries like France have put in place laws to ensure that the food industry reduces the amount of sugar and fat in their fast food. Unfortunately, the fact that poor countries lack such regulations has created a gap for companies to produce particularly unhealthy foods and drinks, and then market themselves to any age group or demographic group.

In Rio de Janeiro, Coca-Cola has settled into Brazilian stereotypes as a marketing strategy: Brazil’s hot days at the beach, watching soccer matches, dirty streets full of young children, passing the ball among themselves, the cliched list goes on. These pictures are a front because the reality within the city is that 1 in 2 children is overweight and 1 in 7 is obese. Experts say that marketing plays a major role in childhood obesity because there are no restrictions on the marketing of fast food. As large corporations develop a craving for these unhealthy foods and rely on misinformation propagated by the media, children become addicted to the taste of foods and drinks that simply don’t suit them. People at the supermarket pile soft drinks and chips in their carts, acknowledging that if it’s not for themselves, it’s for their children and families.

Even school teachers have become brand ambassadors for corporate giants like Coca-Cola, enrolling their students in subsidized group activities like dance competitions. At these events, soft drinks (as opposed to water) are more popular as refreshments. The whole event is a huge marketing party and poorly hidden, and the teenagers there are all too familiar with it: despite acknowledging the arrogant presence of the Coca-Cola brand, the young people refuse to worry about their participation because why would a famous brand like Coca-Cola ever need to make more waves Marketing?

To cater to the younger population, the famous clown mascot of McDonald’s, Ronald MacDonald, was sent to visit children in elementary schools. The actor who plays the mascot goes to great lengths to make a presentation geared towards activities kids usually care about, such as sports, and even the McDonald’s logo is covered in a piece of cloth so that any accusation of marketing can be avoided. But despite McDonald’s claims that they “market responsibly,” the clown certainly speaks for itself with his instantly recognizable personality, leaving kids desperate for the company’s products afterward.

In India, street food is widely available, which is really cheap and healthy. In an effort to compete with this, fast food companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken offer their meals incredibly cheap and cultural incentives are sprinkled here and there with things like “Indian Hot Sauce” with chicken. In addition, these fast food companies make sure not to correct customers’ misconceptions about the nutritional value of the food they serve. This creates a myriad of nutritional wastelands where the blind lead the blind: perhaps one of the most striking comparisons between KFC in Kolkata and one in Europe or even the United States is the lack of water anywhere on the list.

Now, there is a duality between the malnourished people of Kolkata and the burgeoning middle class, the obese. Studies show a rapid increase in adolescent obesity rate in India, with the average number of obese teenagers standing at 30% at the time of writing. This data is supported by the numbers of adolescent patients arriving at diabetes and obesity clinics for gastric bypass surgery to help lose weight. A doctor in one such facility blames media such as television advertisements as the main reason people give in to cravings and struggle to come back from them.

It all comes back to the wheel of marketing: companies pay huge sums to advertise their products in the best way – with lighting, video, and often even completely fake food, all of which play a role in enticing the masses to buy meals. Although these products are visually frustrating in real life, customers still line up to get them. why? Because they are delicious!

A nutritional comparison of fast food products from developed countries such as France and poorer countries such as India reveals that food from developing countries in general is full of much more salt, sugar and fat than their European counterparts. Despite the health risks these ratios suggest, the unfortunate truth is that these dietary exaggerations make food taste tastier. But while France has managed to put the legislature in place, why are the nutritional commitments different — for the exact same companies, in separate parts of the world?

Once again, comes the tragedy of misinformation: People, especially mothers of young children, who have no experience or guidance in reading highly distasteful nutritional information about something seemingly “healthy” like McDonald’s veggie wrap, end up perpetuating the problem.

An anonymous former chef at an Indian Domino’s Pizza outlet demonstrates the insidious ways companies like the pizza conglomerate deceive consumers by marketing something—like a cheese-filled pizza—but instead offering a cheaper, less healthy product; In this case, “cheese” is actually a sauce that disguised itself quite convincingly as cheese. To further prove this point, the lack of nutritional information provided by Domino’s in India simply will not pass in a richer and more developed country like France. Unfortunately, when these companies were asked to comment on these legislative loopholes, no response was provided.

However, while France’s young people seem to enjoy a more organized diet, their increased use of the Internet presents another set of problems: well-known brands like Oreo, M&M’s and Nutella have moved online as well, with social media and advertising in video games (advergames). ) that market their goods, effectively achieving the same effect as in India. Online advertisements and games are not required to display nutritional facts or inform young children they see that something is being marketed to them. However, the interactive nature of these ad games captivate them well enough, so they will never know that the game is just a compelling ad.

In general, experts warn people to be wary of these games, especially in obesity clinics where doctors have to ensure that this digital marketing does not expose a growing number of younger patients. This is particularly evident when one looks at the role of artificial intelligence, as algorithms learn and perpetuate this problem.

Ironically, although countries like France are more sophisticated with their food legislation, misinformation remains a problem, especially among parents: these adventure games slip under the radar of even the most diligent of parents, often disguised as “harmless” activities that don’t do it. Actively advertise any of their meals. But, of course, kids who play these games end up wanting that happy meal they were coloring on their screen. And here’s the up front: Brands aren’t really allowed to do that, with many publicly committing to not marketing to young children. And to this day, the companies themselves vehemently assert that advertising games are not real advertising. However, the scary truth is that just because it’s written on paper, it doesn’t mean it’s a strong commitment.

So how do we change this? Unfortunately, when there is no public or governmental incentive to change the situation, things will not change quickly. It suits companies to be malicious and deceptive because they achieve the same marketing goals they openly oppose, sometimes protected by loopholes in legislation. Until developing country governments put in place or update nutrition and marketing laws, the same wheel will continue to turn.